Sunday, June 13, 2010

Another outstanding headline

Here it is:

"How Can America's 'War on Drugs' Succeed When Prohibition Laws Failed?"

It's a good question, isn't it?

Here's an excerpt from the article:

When you ban a popular drug that millions of people want, it doesn't disappear. Instead, it is transferred from the legal economy into the hand of armed criminal gangs. Across America, gangsters rejoiced that they had just been handed one of the biggest markets in the country, and unleashed an Armada of freighters, steamers, and even submarines to bring booze back. Nobody who wanted a drink went without. As the journalist Malcolm Bingay wrote: "It was absolutely impossible to get a drink, unless you walked at least ten feet and told the busy bartender in a voice loud enough for him to hear you above the uproar."

So if it didn't stop alcoholism, what did it achieve? The same as prohibition does today - a massive unleashing of criminality and violence. Before prohibition, the saloon-keepers could defend their property and their markets by going to the police if they were threatened. After prohibition, the bootleggers could only defend theirs with guns - and they did. As the legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow explained: "The business pays very well, but it is outside the law and they can't go to court, like shoe dealers or real estate men or grocers when they think an injustice has been done them, or unfair competition has arisen in their territory. So, they naturally shoot." Massive gang wars broke out, with the members torturing and murdering each other first to gain control of and then to retain their patches. Thousands of ordinary citizens were caught in the crossfire.

The whole article is truly fascinating and insightful. It is really a review of a new book entitled Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent. There are quite a few interesting comments at the end as well.

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